Back pain, neck pain, shoulder problems, and many other painful conditions often have a common mechanism behind them. This compensation mechanism is part of an inherited series of traits unique to each of us.
If you recently visited your doctor for problems such as back or neck problems, they evaluate the painful part, but other than your weight and blood pressure, will likely not ask you about other areas of your body that may have been painful in the past. Ironically, these other clues would be helpful in understanding the reason behind your symptoms.
Why do most people suffer from pain?
Most nontraumatic painful conditions have a commonality; impaired movement due to body compensations. The more asymmetrical our inherited traits, the more we need to compensate through our fascial system, joint system, muscular systems, and neurological systems as we grow and develop into adults.
The Annals of Internal Medicine explains what works for back pain.
There are many popular disciplines that understand that movement is the basis for chronic pain. Often, people will gravitate to some of these such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, and even exercise classes to get relief. Often these one-size-fits-all all methods do feel good and help us manage chronic tightness and pain. Even the Annals of Internal Medicine last year reported that many of the methods that improve movement according to years of collected data are what reduce back pain. They stopped short of saying that pain and movement are closely linked, even though the commonality to all those natural methods they mentioned is mobility and motion.
A holistic approach to movement is the answer to most chronic back and neck pain
The practice of chiropractic understands that movement is holistic, and their holistic drug-free approach to the human body has often been shown to have very high levels of satisfaction from the public who utilizes their services. The most effective chiropractors are using exercises, manipulation, movement training, and myofascial treatment to enhance and help you relearn and re-adapt to more appropriate movement patterns.
The typical compensation that leaves more people in pain is the DNA-shaped spine. If you have never heard this term before, it is because it describes what happens when there is imbalance from the ground up due to overpronated or asymmetrical feet and gait. Asymmetrical body mechanics cause a mirror image distortion in the upper body. This results in poor core function, poor weight distribution from the ground up, and chronic strain throughout the body in the joints and fascia that surround the muscles and other tissues. If this sounds like fibromyalgia, it may be the actual cause of the condition.
Every patient we have seen who has been labeled with having fibromyalgia also has a DNA-shaped spine. You may find the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain helpful since the chapter on fibromyalgia shows that it is a poorly understood problem that begins with body mechanics. The book also explains body mechanics from the point of view of an engineer and shows you how to best find those who can help you with a chronic pain problem.
The medical approach to pain fails to understand why you hurt, yet there is always another drug and another specialist.
Medically, it is believed that everything is a condition or a disease and we must see a specialist for everything. Once a symptom (s) is classified as a disease, the medical provider can now prescribe a drug. The approach to care is nonholistic and looks at us as if we are disjointed parts that should be tested and inspected.
The body is an integrated mechanism and we are all different functionally. Physicians are very knowledgeable about how the body functions, however, the one-size-fits-all all approach has evolved into a system that looks at us piece by piece, instead of looking at us systemically and labels these problems as diseases. Patients are treated with one drug for one problem or symptom, and the behavior is reinforced by the Merck Manual, which is a handbook on diseases and which drugs are most appropriate for these diseases. While the idea of diseases is based on science, it is a nomenclature that has developed over the years by doctors to describe what they have seen and to categorize them as diseases so the appropriate drug or medical treatment can be applied.
Body mechanics require a mechanical solution, so why is a drug for inflammation given when the healthcare provider has so little knowledge of how your body works or why you have inflammation? Seeing many physicians for a single problem just makes things too complicated and reduces the likelihood of a cost-effective and sensible outcome.
An example of this is water pills which are often recommended for swelling in the legs. The water pill may reduce the water in the body that is causing the swelling but there is no understanding from the doctor as to why the leg swelled. Often, a disease description is applied for billing purposes to justify the medication. If one evaluates further, a common reason for the swelling is tightness in the fascia and body asymmetry causing the feet to impact the ground very hard. This constant pounding can cause swelling, segmental dysfunction in the ankle meaning the joints no longer move properly, and secondary symptoms such as back pain, and balance problems. For balance problems in an older person whose gait is affected, they may be given a walker to prevent a fall. For the back pain, and the degeneration that is seen in the hip and knee, perhaps an orthopedic surgeon may get a consult. Ironically, a chiropractor who uses soft tissue techniques to the ankle and the surrounding fascia and then performs an adjustment to mobilize the ankle, hip, and pelvis will often resolve the swelling, back pain, and joint pain over a few short visits with minimal costs and without medication. The patient will find themselves walking better and often, with the application of an orthotic, will feel marked improvement, even though any damage to the joints over the years is still present on an x-ray.
Movement is holistic, however, our system of diagnosis and treatment for problems involving pain in mainstream America is not.
Medical insurers are part of the problem
The chiropractic profession continues to grow, even as insurers have made survival as a chiropractor more difficult year after year by making it more expensive to visit these more cost-effective providers. They have used tiered networks such as Horizons Omnia which makes more expensive care cheaper while raising the patient portion for providers such as chiropractors who are placed mostly in the higher-priced tier. While this may not make sense to you, for Horizon who profits when your healthcare premiums rise, it makes sense to them. Medicare’s limited coverage of manipulation is another roadblock that hopefully will be overturned in the future as the experts debate how to overcome the Opioid epidemic. This was left over from the 1970s when chiropractic manipulation as a service was added to the services that were covered, although the profession has become much more scientifically based since and they are now more mainstream. Patients are slowly figuring this out after traditional methods have failed to help them.
Neck pain is likely to be compensation from the ground up. So is a shoulder problem and a knee problem. Do joints wear out or are the experts misunderstanding that health requires movement? We have learned that sitting too long may shorten your life, so movement is important.
Is idiopathic scoliosis a problem that happens mostly to growing girls and some boys, or is our ignorance of how body mechanics affect us as we grow resulting in a curved spine? Children who require surgery due to our lack of understanding of body mechanics endure a procedure known as a Harrington rod which often leaves them in chronic pain for the rest of their lives since it limits movement. There is a better way that is scientifically based on the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Resolving the DNA-shaped spine
Resolving or improving a DNA-shaped spine is not easy. As we age the joints in our spine and extremities experience wear from the uneven forces occurring from the ground up.
Resolving a DNA-shaped spine may require foot orthotics which are shoe inserts that will level us out from the ground up. It may require exercises, myofascial release work from a chiropractor, or other therapists directed toward the distortions. It may require a commitment on your part to perform exercises and foam rolling to restore movement that has been affected for years by an adaptive process that began when we were young and has been misread by pediatricians and other medical specialists who lack the training.
Chiropractors are rapidly assuming the role of the primary spine because they are trained not only in manipulation but in the holistic approach to the human frame. They also use an integrated approach toward movement using manipulation, muscle work, movement reeducation, and exercises and teach their patients how to take care of themselves. Most importantly, they look at the patient and how they are unique and then apply their knowledge to help the patient improve the way they feel and function.
The Opioid crisis did not happen by accident. As 60 Minutes recently uncovered, drug companies figured out how to get patients the drugs through doctors who were complicit. Doctors now have limits placed on them regarding how many opioids they can recommend and to whom, yet the idea of the next drug is always a prescription away. For some who are experiencing withdrawal, they found that street drugs were less expensive and more available and many junkies were people that were just trying to feel better but later became addicted. Drug companies always have a new drug for pain and the pain management approach for pain that they do not understand is not going away any time soon. Most physicians in their training will continue to offer the next best pain reliever, but will they recommend a chiropractor? It is up to you, the patient to ask.
The evidence supports movement-based treatment for pain being used first.
The evidence suggests pain is due to movement, yet many doctors still have not visited a chiropractor themselves to understand why so many patients are visiting these well-trained musculoskeletal experts.
There are other movement-based specialists that work with chiropractors such as personal trainers. Some have become quite knowledgeable about the need to restore movement and improve function to reduce pain in the human body. The term alternative or complementary has always been used to describe those practitioners who were not medical.
Knowing what we now know; holistic movement is important for function and a reduction in pain. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, things that promote movement should be used first and drugs and surgeries should be used last. Shouldn’t medicine be alternative and shouldn’t insurance companies be guiding their patients in pain to practitioners to promote movement, based on evidence-based medical guidelines? Shouldn’t the first option of someone in pain be a chiropractor? Does managing pain make sense when the improved function is often the cure?
If you are in pain, consider seeing a chiropractor first. They have the tools and knowledge to understand why your neck, back, shoulder, and extremities are in pain. They look at you, not just the parts. They are direct access providers who can change treatment as needed without having to ask permission. They are more likely to use your healthcare dollar to help you feel better instead of waiting for a test to come back such as an MRI while you are taking medication that can have side effects such as addiction. They are less likely to refer you for a surgical procedure but will make a medical referral when necessary.
Rarely does an MRI by itself help solve a health problem, although the test, combined with a thorough history and exam may offer clarity in some cases as we add up diagnostic data. Data does not help you feel better, but the right practitioner can help.
In pain? See a chiropractor first.